Dear Omar Alnatour:
Thank you so very much for offering “anyone $10,000 if they can find me a verse in the Quran that says it’s ok to kill innocent people or to commit acts of terror.” My 1999 Toyota is on its last legs, and your generous gift will enable me to replace it with a modest but fully operational used midsize sedan. Or maybe (since it has been years since I’ve had a break), if I can keep the jalopy going for awhile, I will use your ten grand take a vacation to Paris and Brussels — before it’s too late, you know?
Anyway, here is my entry, which I am confident will win the $10,000 prize. I’ll make sure of that by giving you even more than you asked for: you wanted just a single Qur’anic verse that “says it’s ok to kill innocent people or to commit acts of terror,” I’ll give you more than one of each, just so there is no doubt:
- The Qur’an says it’s ok to kill innocent people
“Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way; Allah is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.” (Qur’an 9:5)
The verse says to kill the idolaters – mushrikun – those who worship others besides Allah. Now I don’t know, Mr. Alnatour, if you might think “idolaters” are by virtue of being “idolaters” are not innocent and therefore worth killing, but I’m with Thomas Jefferson: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” I don’t think my neighbor to have forfeited his innocence if he prays to gods I don’t recognize, and I hope you don’t, either.
Now I expect that you will say that this Qur’an verse refers not to all idolaters, but only to one very specific group of idolaters, the polytheist Quraysh tribe of Mecca that was making war against Muhammad, and that this verse has no force now that they have been conquered and Islamized, and doesn’t apply to any other idolaters. It would have been nice for Allah to make that clear in the pages of his perfect book, but who am I to question the will of a deity?
What’s more, classic Muslim commentators on this Qur’an verse give no hint that it has long expired. On the contrary, Ibn Juzayy notes that it cancels out peaceful verses; he says that it abrogates “every peace treaty in the Qur’an,” and specifically abrogates the Qur’an’s directive to “set free or ransom” captive unbelievers (47:4). As-Suyuti agrees: “This is an Ayat of the Sword which abrogates pardon, truce and overlooking” — that is, perhaps the overlooking of the pagans’ offenses. The Tafsir al-Jalalayn says that the Muslims must “slay the idolaters wherever you find them, be it during a lawful [period] or a sacred [one], and take them, captive, and confine them, to castles and forts, until they have no choice except death or Islam.” He is offering this as instruction for Muslims in his day; he seems to have no idea that this verse doesn’t apply to them.
Neither does Ibn Kathir. He writes that Muslims should “not wait until you find them. Rather, seek and besiege them in their areas and forts, gather intelligence about them in the various roads and fairways so that what is made wide looks ever smaller to them. This way, they will have no choice, but to die or embrace Islam.” He also doesn’t seem to subscribe to the view that this verse applies only to the pagans of Arabia in Muhammad’s time, and has no further application. He asserts, on the contrary, that “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” means just that: the unbelievers must be killed “on the earth in general, except for the Sacred Area” — that is, the sacred mosque in Mecca, in accord with Qur’an 2:191.
So there you are, Mr. Alnatour: the Qur’an calling for the murder of those who are innocent, except for the crime of being “idolaters” – a “crime” that requires earthly punishment only in the Qur’an.
And there’s more:
“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, of the People of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Qur’an 9:29)
The “People of the Book” are Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians. The verse doesn’t provide any reason why they should be fought and made to submit to the Muslims except that they are People of the Book and don’t acknowledge Islam. Here again, you might consider them not innocent on that basis, but I hope you don’t, as I’m sure you would agree that people may differ on key questions in good faith.
Ibn Juzayy, however, does believe that the People of the Book should be fought simply because they are not Muslims. He says that this verse is “a command to fight the People of the Book” and explains that they must be fought because of their “denying their belief in Allah because of the words of the Jews, ‘Ezra is the son of Allah” and the words of the Christians, ‘The Messiah is the son of Allah’” (cf. Qur’an 9:30). He adds that Muslims must also fight them “because they consider as lawful carrion, blood, pork, etc.” and because “they do not enter Islam.”
So the Qur’an says that the People of the Book must be fought because they believe differently from the Muslims. But that is not a crime. These people are innocent.
- The Qur’an says it’s ok to commit acts of terror
“We will cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, for that they have associated with Allah that for which He sent down never authority; their lodging shall be the Fire; evil is the lodging of the evildoers.” (Qur’an 3:151)
Now, Mr. Alnatour (may I call you Omar?), I know what you’ll say here: this is Allah saying he will terrorize the unbelievers, not commanding the Muslims to do so. Fair enough, although I can’t help but recall that the Qur’an also says: “Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands” (9:14). So if Allah is punishing the unbelievers by the hands of the believers, might part of that punishment involve casting terror into the hearts of the unbelievers? And that’s what terrorism is all about, right?
And yes, there is still more. “Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can, to strike terror into the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them that you know not; Allah knows them. And whatsoever you expend in the way of Allah shall be repaid you in full; you will not be wronged.” (Qur’an 8:60)
Strike terror into the enemy of Allah and your enemy. Now you no doubt have some explanation for this, Mr. Alnatour, but I wonder how you would explain to a young member of the Islamic State (ISIS) or al-Qaeda that Allah’s command to strike terror into the enemy of Allah doesn’t mean that they should behead, or blow up, or otherwise terrorize unbelievers.
So there you have it. Not just one verse, but four, and I have plenty more. You don’t have to pay me $40,000 even though I fulfilled your requirements four times over; I’ll take the $10,000, and thank you very much for your generosity. I must say that I very much enjoyed your article in which you made this offer, “Why Muslims Should Never Have To Apologize for Terrorism,” if it is proper to say that one enjoyed such a lamentable tale as your own. It is lamentable to read about how your wife screams at you and your children hate you for matters beyond your control, and that then on top of that, Infidels have the temerity to want you to do something about Islamic terrorism beyond issuing pro forma condemnations.
My mind goes back, however, to those who were murdered by Islamic terrorists recently in Brussels, Paris, San Bernardino, and so many other places. I’m sure you would agree that the suffering of their families far exceeds that of Muslims who must suffer Infidels asking them (quite patiently, for over fourteen years now since 9/11) to clean their own house. I do hope that you will think a bit about them, and about your Qur’an. Instead of obfuscating its contents, as you’re writing out my check, you could do us all a favor by starting to ponder some strategies about how to limit the capacity of your holy book to incite murder and bloodshed. In light of my confidence that you will do that, I very much look forward to your next article.
With cordial best wishes from your fellow human being,